The parliamentary Budget committee was shocked to learn last week that the National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira) is spending more than Shs 600m annually to rent office space at Kololo grounds.
Nira is a government department under the ministry of Internal Affairs saddled with creating, managing, maintaining and operationalizing the National Identification Register. The committee learnt that Nira rents the Kololo grounds, a gazetted area for national ceremonies, at a whopping Shs 51m monthly.
The figure came to light when Doreen Ruth Amule (Amolator Woman MP), the chairwoman of the parliamentary committee on defence and internal affairs, asked committee members to consider allocating Shs 12bn for purchase of land for NIRA’s office premises. It was then that the budget committee discovered that the Internal Affairs’ ministry pays rent to Defence for the Nira offices at Kololo.
Whereas Kololo grounds are a government gazetted area for mainly national gatherings, ministry of Defence assumed ownership and charges Nira ground rent. Nira has occupied Kololo since 2014 when government launched the National Identity project. The Budget committee members wondered why government was charging a government agency for accommodation.
West Budama North MP Richard Okoth-Othieno argued that it was irregular for Nira to pay rent to the ministry of Defence.
“We suspect there is no payment being made but people are just moving under that cover….it is something we need to investigate. They could be moving under that claim that we are [Nira] paying that money as ground rent to Defence but somehow in the books of Defence that money is not generated because they are not supposed to pay Defence,” Okoth-Othieno said.
“We need to find out, are they [Nira] paying to the Consolidated Fund or not? If not, this is how these government bureaucrats make money. They create a window, which appears normal. Of course these auditors are compromised. The auditors will not unearth anything, they will not report anything…but somehow in Defence [ministry] some few individuals get this money and it is shared between the two parties sometimes…. that is what happens and they bring their thing in the budget here to appear a normal transaction, a normal government operation…,” Okoth-Othieno added.
Buliisa MP Stephen Mukitale said during the preparation of the 2014/2015 Financial year budget, the Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Budget and the Budget Committee resolved that Nira goes to Kololo due to financial constraints.
“Our expectation was that this is government-to-government and, therefore, there would be no pressure on rent. Now we need to investigate for how many years has this money been expended? Has this money been recorded in one ministry? Initially it was supposed to be KCCA, then it became the President’s Office. Now I hear it’s Defence. Are they receiving it as revenue if NIRA is expending it as expenditure?” Mukitale said.
“It gives our budget indicators to be performing in terms of revenue but it is like deceiving yourself that I have the money but when you don’t have it. So, we need first of all to confirm that it is being captured as revenue somewhere and if not, that is an error we need to confirm,” Mukitale added.
The committee chaired by Ntenjeru North MP Amos Lugoloobi noted that the money so far spent in the past years could have built a home for one of the ministries currently renting office space. Amule said Nira activities are always interrupted when there is a national event at the Kololo grounds.
“What has been done is to appropriate a budget meant for Nira to have land purchased and the preparatory stages to start the construction. What we are looking [at] as a committee is that Nira must have its own standalone headquarters where every citizen will be in position to tell this is Nira’s headquarters…,” Amule said.